Guest blog by Jerod Gibson-Faber, Upstate Institute Summer Field School Fellow at OCHS. Be gentle, my iambic pentameter is a bit rusty..
Let us remember the Stanley Theater.
For theaters in New York, it’s a leader.
Located on the street called Genesee,
In 1928 it was marquee.
It opened on a Monday afternoon.
It’s beauty made the city-goers swoon.
Designed by architect named Thomas Lamb,
In it did all of Utica try cram.
On it hard times eventually did fall;
The Stanley almost met the wrecking ball.
However, help from the community
Ensured a future of prosperity!
New stage, new roof, and new interior,
Would make again the site superior
Than any place the human eye could see.
Come one, come all, to Utica’s Stanley.
While it’s pretty obvious I’m no more than some fake Shakespeare, what is now known as the Stanley Center for the Arts is absolutely the real deal. In 3 years, the theater will celebrate its 90th year of existence – an impressive accomplishment for any establishment. The Stanley was not the only theater designed by Lamb and his firm. In fact, they were responsible for designing over 300 theaters worldwide. Utica can take pride in being the recipient of such a grand theater as well as the fact that Thomas Lamb was somewhat of a local himself. He owned a camp and spent a good deal of time just north in the Adirondack mountains.
In the archives at the OCHS, I found a program for a touring violinist – Fritz Kreisler. It’s dated for Monday evening on December 6th, 1937.
The fact that Utica had the venue and allure to attract a musician such as Kreisler – regarded as one of the greatest violinists of all time – really says something about the city. The theater flourished for many years throughout the mid-1900s, but by 1973 it was screening grade B movies and demolition was a very real threat. However, the community it had served for so long came to its rescue as the Central New York Community Arts Council purchased the property for $135,000 in 1974. They spearheaded a revitalization campaign that poured millions of dollars into the theater to see it through to the 21st century. A grand reopening was held in 2008 and it hosts entities such as the Utica Symphony, Broadway Theatre League of Utica, and travelling artists (Martina McBride, Tony Bennett, and Jerry Seinfeld in the more recent past) among other shows, too. While the Stanley Center for the Arts has faced its share of ups and downs, it nevertheless continues to be a mark of pride for the city of Utica.
– Jerod (firstname.lastname@example.org)